Tag Archive | "insurance"

First Budget Meeting on the Business Office

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By Claire Walla

With the state’s two-percent tax levy cap looming over the upcoming budget season, the Sag Harbor School District has decided to get a head start on financial discussions, kicking off its budget discussions nearly eight weeks ahead of last year’s schedule.

On Monday, November 28, just before the district’s regularly scheduled business meeting, school board members were privy to the first of six budget workshops, this one focusing on the district’s business office.

According to District Business Manager Janet Verneuille, the department’s projected budget for the 2012-2013 school year will increase by 4.8 percent over this year’s operating budget, or about $59,000.

The majority of the overall budget increase for this department is tied to business administration salaries, a line item expected to see an increase of about $38,400 for next year. Verneuille noted that the increase largely accounts for two part-time employees—as well as contractual increases that include financial projections for some staff members potentially joining a collective bargaining unit, and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a senior account clerk—and a three-percent raise that Verneuille has factored in for every non-union employee.

“I think it’s fair,” Verneuille said. A three-percent raise, she explained, splits the difference between two extremes: adhering to the district’s financial strains and recognizing the fact that unionized secretarial support staff is set to see five- to seven-percent raises scheduled for next year.

This budget increase also accounts for the fact that the business department is moving more services in-house.

“For years [schools’] financial statements were done by auditors,” Verneuille explained, adding that this practice changed in 2004 when the Roslyn school district on Long Island was found to have misused about $11 million worth of taxpayer dollars. “After Roslyn, one of the things that changed is that outside auditors can’t do district financials.”

The business department has thus spent money on higher salaried staff members, and now employs two in-house CPAs (including Verneuille).

“There are some hefty increases in expenses for the business office,” Verneuille explained.

However, Verneuille stressed that this section of the budget — which also includes the board of education, central administration, legal services, public information services and insurance — currently only accounts for about 3.5 percent of the district’s overall budget.

In addition to salary increases, the preliminary budget also accounts for increases to public information (up from $32,000 to $55,000) and increases to legal fees (up from $130,000 to $149,500). Verneuille said the budget is higher for these line items in anticipation of upcoming events, namely the school’s proposed bond measure and teachers’ contract negotiations with the teaching assistants, custodians and secretarial unions.

Hospitals Successfully Negotiate With GHI/HIP

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Southampton Hospital — and the two other local medical facilities that are part of the East End Health Alliance — successfully negotiated an agreement with two insurance providers on Friday, September 19. The Alliance had issued a press release on Monday announcing that subscribers to both GHI and HIP — which are presently in the process of merging — would soon be out of network. Friday’s negotiation, however, narrowly made the deadline and prevented the change in protection.

On Wednesday, negotiators from the Alliance were in a telephone conference to try to meet a midnight Friday deadline with HIP, whose contract was set to expire with Southampton Hospital and Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead. If negotiations failed, then patients with HIP who normally receive care at those two hospitals would have needed to find other institutions if they hoped to be covered by their insurance. Patients already scheduled for procedures, as well as emergency cases,  would still have been covered.

Ilene Margolin, a spokesperson for both GHI and HIP,  declined to elaborate on the companies’ positions, saying “we don’t negotiate in the press.”

At issue, according to Paul J. Connor, spokesman for the Alliance, was the amount the hospitals are reimbursed from the insurance companies for care they give.

“It doesn’t cost any less to care for a patient here than it does at any other hospital on Long Island,” said Connor this week.

“It is critical to quality patient care at our East End hospitals that our insurance reimbursement rates keep pace with the costs of providing patient care,” Mr. Connor explained. “As with all hospitals, our costs including pharmaceutical, utility and labor expenses, continue to increase significantly.”

The negotiations also included GHI. Both HIP and GHI have the same parent company, Emblem Health. The out-of-network deadline for Peconic Bay Medical Center and Southampton Hospitals for GHI was October 5, 2008. Eastern Long Island Hospital’s out-of-network deadline for HIP and GHI was November 13.

The three hospitals in the Alliance — which formed earlier this summer after several years of fits and starts with another, failed, relationship — have been attempting to have their various contracts with insurance providers all on the same schedule with each other. Earlier this year they successfully negotiated new contracts, also fighting over more equitable reimbursements, with Empire Blue Cross, Oxford and United Health Care. The managed care agreement hammered out on Friday will for two years.

“This will be the last of the major insurers for this year,” said Connor. Blue Cross will come up again next year, he said, but it is the goal of the Alliance to have all of the contracts extended to two years each.